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When did the Knights Templar dissolve and why?

When did the Knights Templar dissolve and why?


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The Knights Templar were a medieval chivalric organization within the Roman Catholic Church.

When did they dissolve, and what ultimately led to the dissolution of the Templars?


Officially the Knights were disbanded in the early 14th century, beginning in France with King Philip IV prosecuting them for multiple reasons (the Templars had lost standing after the Third Crusade, public mistrust, and the King owed money to the order), with other countries to follow. Pope Clement V disbanded the Order in 1312.


One of the books piled up at some of the bookstore chains is titled 'The Knights Templar'. A point made in the book is that between the formation of the Knights and their dissolution there was a cultural shift in Europe toward a more secular outlook. The collapse of the western Roman empire was both natural and human disaster, natural in that there appeared to be a global cooling event that led to a lot of starvation, and human (perhaps partly cause by the natural disaster) in the collapse of what might be described as the 'advanced' civilization of Rome. This was succeeded by the arrival of the Muslims in the Holy Lands and North Africa, and the spread of Christianity throughout Europe. By the 1300s much of Europe had gotten tired of the Crusades and the Church was acting as a temporal power, in effect another power center among the kings and emperors of Europe. The natural disaster had abated, so the 1200s in particular (the High Middle Ages) were quite prosperous.

The Templars were significantly influenced by their experience in the Holy Lands and in particular in their archeology on the Temple Mount. Subsequent evidence suggests they found and removed many articles that were hidden or stored in the area, and some of these presumably contained heretofore 'hidden' knowledge. It is presumed some of this was used to their advantage in Europe, which created widespread disaffection. Over time, the order was becoming progressively less subordinate to either the Pope or the rulers in the countries they operated in. This was particularly troublesome in France, considerably less so in England and in particular in Scotland.

While formally disbanded as a religious order, elements of it appear to have survived as the Freemasons. Some find this to be a controversial assertion, particularly when the role of the Freemasons is considered in the formation of the United States from the 13 Colonies. There is circumstantial evidence that various branches of the Knights either explored or migrated into North America following the dissolution in 1312.


Lost Relics of the Knights Templar

Carl Cookson and Hamilton White have their work cut out for them in Lost Relics of the Knights Templar. Not only do they have to uncover the true provenance of their hoard of mysterious medieval artefacts, but they also have to delve into all the myths and half-truths that continue to swirl around the Templars.

One of the most contentious questions relates to the possible connection between the Templars and the Freemasons. This is the stuff of blockbuster novels and Hollywood thrillers, but how and why did historians start to ponder this alleged link?

Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation which developed out of guilds of actual, working stonemasons (known as ‘operative masons’) in the Middle Ages. These were the highly skilled men who would travel long distances to build cathedrals and other landmarks, with early ‘lodges’ being set up on building sites to accommodate them. Over the centuries, the era of operative masons began to wane, and slowly the guilds began to take in distinguished people who were not stonecutters and builders. These members became known as ‘speculative masons’. Exactly when and how the organisation went from being made up of literal, operative masons to allegorical, speculative masons is still a matter of debate. But the era of speculative Freemasonry as we know it today – a semi-secretive organisation of well-connected men – began in 1717 when a cluster of London lodges gathered in a tavern to create the first Grand Lodge.

So where do the Templars come in?

A gulf of time certainly separates the end of the age of the Templars and the advent of speculative Freemasonry. The fall of the chivalric order began with the mass arrests of French Templars on 13 October 1307 – an infamous date thought by some to have inspired the ‘Friday the 13th’ superstition. The knights were accused of idolatory, blasphemous rituals and sexual deviance, and the Grand Master of the Templars was among those who were burnt alive. The order was eventually extinguished in 1312 – many, many generations before the Freemasons emerged as a secret society of thinkers and influencers.

However, it’s been speculated that some of the knights escaped the savaging of their order to lay down roots elsewhere. Historians have mused over a tantalising confession given by one Templar, Jean de Chalon, who alleged that some members of the order in Paris were given word of the crackdown and managed to slip away on ships, to parts unknown.

Jean de Chalon’s story has been dismissed by some scholars as highly unreliable, as it was presumably given while the luckless knight was being tortured. But what if it was true? Stories have persisted about these fleeing Templars finding sanctuary in Scotland, with some 18th Century Scots alleging that members of the order had brought secret treasure from the Holy Land with them. One such account came from a Scottish exile in Germany named George Frederick Johnson. As the historian Peter Partner, author of The Murdered Magicians: Templars and their Myth, tell us, Johnson played a key role in changing the way we imagine Templars, from ‘unlearned and fanatical soldier-monks to that of enlightened and wise knightly seers, who had used their sojourn in the East to recover its profoundest secrets.’

This romanticisation of the Templars as seekers of holy truths and holy relics – including the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant – has become a mainstay of pop culture. But the Scottish connection also, in some people’s minds, ties the Templars in with the Freemasons. After all, Scotland was where the earliest speculative lodges were formed, centuries before London hosted the first Grand Lodge meeting in 1717. Many have attempted to piece together a link between the Templars who allegedly settled in Scotland (and fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn, according to lore), and the earliest Freemasons.

A particularly significant site for those who believe in the link is Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, known to millions as a key location in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The chapel is famed for its many intricate carvings, some apparently being Templar and Masonic symbols. Could the chapel have been the repository of the fabled Templar treasures smuggled out of France on the eve of the mass arrests? And do the carvings imply a kind of cross-pollination between the exiled knights and the Scottish masons?

The timeframe doesn’t seem to back up this version of events, as construction began on Rosslyn Chapel in the 15th Century, long after the fall of the Templars. However, some have speculated that, prior to the alleged treasures being kept at Rosslyn, the exiled Templars originally sought refuge at another site, Kilwinning Abbey in Ayrshire. Unlike Rosslyn, this structure did exist at the time of the Templars’ fall. Fascinatingly, Kilwinning is also home to Lodge Mother Kilwinning, reckoned to be the oldest Masonic lodge in the world. Kilwinning has therefore been identified as the place where Templars and operative masons potentially came into contact.

Did Templars in Scotland influence operative masons, who in turn passed on the Templars’ esoteric wisdom, secrets and traditions onto the earliest speculative Freemasons? It’s one of the great puzzles of the past which will always intrigue us. But the true extent of the connection, if any such connection even exists, may never be proven.


Valiant Beginnings

The end of the Knights Templar was a sad close to an order whose origins two centuries earlier had been marked by valor and purity of intent. After the liberation of Jerusalem in 1099, the cities of the Holy Land were freed from the tyranny of Islam, but the countryside of Outremer remained the domain of thieves, robbers, and murderers, Saracen and otherwise. Despite these dangers, Christians from Western Europe journeyed in great numbers to the sites where the Son of God walked, preached, and worked miracles. For the brigands who filled the hillsides along the way, these pilgrims were easy prey.

Moved by their plight, around 1119 or 1120, nine Frankish knights who had settled in Jerusalem after the First Crusade took vows in the presence of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Led by Hugh of Payens and Godfrey of Saint-Omer, these knights vowed like other religious brothers to live lives of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Altogether new, however, in monastic history, to say nothing of military history, was their fourth vow: to police the roads of the Holy Land for the protection of pilgrims. Soon nine grew into 30, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem gave the knights a wing of his palace believed to lie on the site of Temple of Solomon. The Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem, or simply, the Templars, were born. As Desmond Seward writes, they became the “the first properly disciplined and officered troops in the West since Roman times” and “the storm troopers of the Crusades” (The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders, 17).

Bernard of Clairvaux believed that the union in the Templar of the man of prayer and the man of war was exactly what the Holy Land needed. He requested from the pope a formal rule and papal approval for the order. In January 1128, at the Council of Troyes, Bernard presided over the writing of the 72 articles that made up the order’s Rule of Life. Modeled on the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Templar Rule covered all aspects of Templar life, guiding the monk whose job was also to train for combat and, when the need arose, shed the blood of the Saracen in defense of the cross.

With a rule, the official recognition of the Church, and the endorsement of Bernard of Clairvaux, the Templar Order grew quickly. Knights were eager to join an operation that promised better to organize the crusading spirit of the age, and those unable to join were eager to give their support. A cynic might say that the Templars were great fundraisers, but that would misunderstand the fire with which this new order set alight the Christian imaginations of the people of this blessed time, people whose gaze, like all pilgrims, was set not on this world but on the next. Cash gifts from the nobility of Christendom poured in, as well as donations of land, estates, and manor houses, all made, as their charters reveal, for remission of sins.

By the middle of the 12th century, the Templars had an extensive network of agricultural estates, or preceptories, throughout France, Italy, Spain, and England. These funded the high cost of the Templars’ defense of Christianity’s tenuous hold on the Holy Land. Secular knights would come and go, but it was the military religious orders—the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Teutonic Knights—who constituted the standing army of the Crusades.


How the Knights Templar were dissolved?

In 1312, after the Council of Vienne, and under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, Pope Clement V issued an edict officially dissolving the Order. Many kings and nobles who had been supporting the Knights up until that time, finally acquiesced and dissolved the orders in their fiefs in accordance with the Papal command. Most were not so brutal as the French. In England, many Knights were arrested and tried, but not found guilty.

Much of the Templar property outside of France was transferred by the Pope to the Knights Hospitaller, and many surviving Templars were also accepted into the Hospitallers. In Spain, where the king of Aragon was against giving the heritage of the Templars to Hospitallers (as commanded by Clement V), the Order of Montesa took Templar assets.

The order continued to exist in Portugal, simply changing its name to the Order of Christ. This group was believed to have contributed to the first naval discoveries of the Portuguese. Prince Henry the Navigator led the Portuguese order for 20 years until the time of his death.

Even with the absorption of Templars into other Orders, there are still questions as to what became of all of the tens of thousands of Templars across Europe. There had been 15,000 “Templar Houses”, and an entire fleet of ships. Even in France where hundreds of Templars had been rounded up and arrested, this was only a small percentage of the estimated 3,000 Templars in the entire country. Also, the extensive archive of the Templars, with detailed records of all of their business holdings and financial transactions, was never found. By papal bull it was to have been transferred to the Hospitallers, whose library was destroyed in the 16th century by Turkish invaders. Some scholars believe that some of the Templars fled into the Swiss Alps, as there are records of Swiss villagers around that time suddenly becoming very skilled military tacticians. An attack was led by Leopold I of Austria, who was attempting to take control of the St. Gotthard Pass with a force of 5,000 knights. His force was ambushed and destroyed by a group of about 1,500 Swiss peasants. Up until that point, the Swiss really had no military experience, but after that battle, the Swiss became renowned as seasoned fighters. Some folk tales from the period describe how there were “armed white knights” who came to help them in their battles.

Little is known about what became of the Templar’s fleet of ships. There is record of 18 Templar ships being in port at La Rochelle, France on October 12, 1307 (the day before Friday the 13th). But the next day, the fleet had vanished.


Templar Legends in Poland, part 1

The Knights Templars' history can induce flights of imagination, and no wonder: given the rise to power, their wealth and tragic dismiss of this chivalric order in France. From the legends someone can have an impression that not many Templars stayed alive after the imprisonment, torture, and killing of some of the knights in France.

When we look closer at some Polish legends, we find a story where a Templar commander was killed by the burghers of a specific town. There is a stone cross on the place of the alleged murder. I didn’t see the cross, if it is stone it may be so called “penitent cross” put often on a place of crime. Why the people killed the Templar? Most likely abusive conduct of the Templar in question, nothing to do with the events in France. The Knight Templars were crusaders after all, and similar to other crusaders in Poland they not always were treating the locals gently.

Description in Polish language of someone who is nasty and arrogant as "haughty like a Templar" may point to not-so-mysterious and holly direction. The knights are the stuff of legends and mystery, but also they took parts in rides against the pagan population. The massacres of civilian populations were seen by the crusaders of any kind as normal behavior towards the non-Christians. Teutonic Knights, the other crusaders in situ, also complained that the pagans in the region were very rebellious and rotten: they didn't want to submit to "proper" power. There were of course uprisings by pagan populations and by the Christians alike. And Templars, like any other crusading orders, got also great latifundia donated to them by the Polish dukes, with local population included.


A new papal purpose

The Knights Templar garnered plenty of religious and secular support. After a tour of Europe in 1127, the order began receiving large donations from nobles across the continent.

As the order grew in popularity and wealth, it came under criticism from some who questioned whether religious men should carry swords. But when Bernard of Clairvaux wrote In Praise of the New Knighthood in 1136, it silenced some of the order’s critics and served to increase the Knights Templar’s popularity.

In 1139, Pope Innocent III gave the Knights Templar special privileges they were no longer required to pay a tithe (tax to the Church and clergy) and were answerable only to the pope himself.

The knights even had their own flag which displayed that their power was independent from secular leaders and kingdoms.


Knightfall

Just what was it that the Knights Templar found beneath the ruins of Solomon’s Temple? Was it a vast amount of buried treasure? Was it the location of the Ark of the Covenant? Or was it, as some firmly believe to this day, the Holy Grail?

Believed to be constructed around the mid-10th Century BCE on an elevated area of ground in Jerusalem that would later come to be known as Temple Mount, Solomon’s Temple was said to be Phoenician in design. A magnificent, white marble and gold-covered building, the temple contained three chambers consisting of an outer vestibule, the main chamber and the ‘Holy of Holies’. The Holy of Holies was a small antechamber at the back of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant was traditionally thought to be kept. The Ark, as any Indiana Jones aficionado will tell you, contained two stone tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments. The jury’s still out on whether it also contained face-melting avenging angels.

At the entrance to the temple stood two twenty-seven-foot-high brass pillars adorned with ornately decorated capitals. The pillars were known as Boaz and Jachin, and they stood either side of the door that led to the temple’s vestibule. Replicas of Boaz and Jachin - which in Hebrew mean ‘In Him is strength’ and ‘He will establish’ respectively - can be found in most Masonic lodges. Hiram Abiff, the chief architect of the temple, is an important figure in Freemasonry, and the order’s lodges are referred to as ‘temples’ in honor of Abiff’s greatest creation.

The Temple of Solomon was not just a place of worship, but also one of ritual animal sacrifice and bizarre practices such as ‘sacred prostitution’, where pilgrims could pay to use the services of temple prostitutes who would ‘cleanse’ them of their sins by partaking in religiously sanctioned sexual intercourse. Sacred prostitution has been called into doubt by some historians who dispute the practice ever took place.
The temple met its end in 587 BCE when the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar II besieged the city of Jerusalem. The city was razed to the ground and the temple, which had stood for nearly five hundred years, was completely destroyed. The Ark of the Covenant has never seen again, had it ever existed in the first place.

A second, much more modest temple arose from the ashes of the first in 516 BCE. This temple would be vastly altered and turned into a huge and magnificent temple complex by Herod the Great, the king who is perhaps best known from his appearance in the Bible wherein he orders the so-called ‘Massacre of the Innocents’ at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. Herod’s temple would eventually be destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 BCE in retaliation for the Jewish Revolt that saw most of Jerusalem – the second temple included - reduced to rubble.

Following the end of Roman rule, the Temple Mount and the ruins of the second temple were used as a huge rubbish dump for the next six hundred years. It wasn’t until the city was in Muslim hands under Caliph Abd al-Malik that the site was cleared in order that a mosque could be built in 691 CE. The mosque, known as the Dome of the Rock, would eventually be joined by the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque, completed in 705 CE. The Dome of the Rock famously stands over the Foundation Stone – a huge slab of rough bedrock on which the Jews believe Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son Isaac. It was over this stone that the Muslims built their mosque. Today, the Dome of the Rock is the third holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

Banished from the Knights Templar after the discovery of his affair with Queen Joan, Landry must work to redeem himself.

Starring @HamillHimself @SMerrells @HamillHimself @GenevieveWGaunt @EdStoppard #Knightfall season 2 starts Tuesday 2 July at 9pm pic.twitter.com/cu25FI1ziK

— HISTORY UK (@HISTORYUK) May 29, 2019

Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders in 1099 and, rather than sweeping away the two mosques that by this stage had stood on Temple Mount for four hundred years, they instead chose to repurpose them. The Dome of the Rock was handed over to the Augustinian order and converted into a church. The Al-Aqsa mosque, after first being used as a palace, was eventually given to the newly formed Templars in 1120. It was from the site of the long-gone Solomon’s Temple that the Templars took their full name - The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon.

Temple Mount would be the headquarters of the Templar order for the next sixty-seven years until Jerusalem was captured by Saladin in 1187. It was during their tenure at the Al-Aqsa mosque that the Templars were said to have carried out excavations on Temple Mount, supposedly unearthing treasures that have fueled speculation and conspiracy theories for centuries.

While the these treasures have disappeared from history, the Temple’s legacy lives on in the name of the holy order

Among the artifacts the Templars are said to have unearthed during their time on Temple Mount were the fabled Holy Grail, the Turin Shroud, the head of St. John the Baptist, the Spear of Destiny, the embalmed head of Jesus Christ and the location of the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, believed to be buried somewhere in modern-day Ethiopia.

The Templars were ousted from Jerusalem at the end of the 12th Century, and many people believe they took whatever they found during the course of their excavations with them, hiding the treasure of Solomon’s Temple in their headquarters in Paris until the order was brutally disbanded in 1307.

It was during the crushing of the order that the treasure was said to have been secretly smuggled out of Paris and put on a ship at the French port of La Rochelle. Several Templar ships, including the treasure ship, hurriedly left La Rochelle as members of the Templar order were being rounded up, tortured and burned alive across Europe. The ships were never seen again, or so the story goes.

While the these treasures have disappeared from history, the Temple’s legacy lives on in the name of the holy order - the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon or the Templars who took their name from this ancient site and for Muslims for whom the Dome of the Rock, the site of the original Temple of Solomon is one of their holiest sites.


The Destruction of the Knights Templar: The Guilty French King and the Scapegoat Pope

The destruction of the Knights Templar came as a result of greed on the part of the French king, Philip IV, and not at the hands of the Catholic Church and it’s pope.

Anyone who has read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has heard of the Knights Templar. What most people don’t know is the name of the pope who is often incorrectly credited with the Templar’s destruction in the early fourteenth-century. That man was Pope Clement V and regardless of how popular culture—and Dan Brown—portrays Clement, in reality, he had very little to do with the eradication of the most well known crusaders and everything to do with opposing the French king who actually destroyed the organization.

Few popes have been unjustly demonized more by today’s popular culture than Clement V and most people don’t even know who he was. When the Templars were rounded up and arrested Clement had no previous knowledge of the action, but was forced into an awkward situation of compromise.

Unam Sanctam Controversy

Upon Clement’s election as pope in 1305 he began fighting a long and complex political battle with the French king of the time, Philip IV (the Fair). Philip had slowly become the most powerful ruler in Europe. Clement’s predecessors, Pope Boniface VIII, attempted to limit the power of secular rulers by issuing the papal bull Unam Sanctam. The papal bull voiced that there could only be one ultimate power on earth and that that should be the spiritual power of the Catholic Church and all other temporal powers should forever remain subordinate.

This bull openly threatened the power of Philip the Fair and his aim to acquire Church money and land. Rather than relent his hostile position, Philip marched into Italy with his army, kidnapped Boniface VIII, and possibly had him beaten. Boniface died shortly after his confrontation with Philip making the king no friend of the papal throne.

Knights Templar are Arrested

In 1307 Philip the Fair was running low on money and needed access to a large influx of capital to keep his ambitious plans of French expansion moving the Knights Templar became an easy target. Sixteen years before their arrest the Knights Templar lost their last foothold in the Holy Land with the fall of their stronghold at Acre and therefore lost their relevancy to the world as the Holy Land would never be retaken. During their existence the Templars developed into a wealthy order of knights and lords. They had acquired fiefdoms, church lands, and unimaginable wealth, and the French king wanted it all. On 13 October 1307 Philip put out an order to arrest all Templars on a myriad of charges that included blasphemy, sodomy, and of course, heresy.

The image of hundreds of men being brutally murdered and burned at the stake that very night could not be farther from what happened. Many Templars were arrested, but none were killed that night. Philip might have been the most powerful ruler in Europe, but he still needed the action sanctioned by the Church. This is where Clement was forced to compromise, to a point.

Before Clement was elected pope, Philip the Fair had been pushing for a trial against Pope Boniface VIII in order to have the dead pope excommunicated on the grounds of heresy. Boniface made the mistake of standing up against the French king and paid the price with his freedom. Clement had been slowly putting off a trial against Boniface the day he became pope. With the arrest of the Knights Templar, Philip had in reality given Clement a powerful bargaining chip. Now each man needed something the other could give him. Clement wanted the office of the pope to be cleared of any heresy charges and Philip wanted the Templar wealth.

Knights Templar Executions

For five years the Templar’s fate was held in limbo as Clement pushed back a decision over and over until Philip threatened action against the pope. It was not until 1312 with the conclusion of the Council of Vienne that a decision was finally made. In 1312 it was ruled that the Knights Templar were guilty of heresy and that the order was to be disbanded, but instead of mass burnings at the stake only two men died the Grand Master of the Templars, Jacques de Molay and one of his associates, Geoffrey of Charney. In exchange, Philip was cleared of all charges of heresy that were laid during the pontificate of Boniface VIII, and Philip relented in his push for heresy charges against Boniface and the office of the pope. However, Philip was denied the wealth he desired.

In one last act of defiance, Clement V did not allow the Templar wealth to flow to Philip and the French coffers. He gave the bulk of the Templar wealth to the second largest knightly order, the Knights Hospitallers. Philip received nothing out of his desperate efforts for money except for five years of headaches and wasted money. Clement, on the other hand, got the office of the pope cleared of all offenses and strengthened another holy order of knights. Not bad for a compromise.


Why did King Philip of France crush the Templars?

King Philip of France owed a massive amount of money to the Templars and the Order had a large fortress in Paris reputedly sitting on large stocks of deposited bullion. These are the facts that many believe led King Philip to crush the Templars.

During a riot over a currency devaluation, the king fled to the security of the Templar fortress and reputedly, while there, couldn’t help noticing the vast amount of wealth the order possessed.

Having shaken down the Jews in France, and expelled them, plus turned the screws on the church and people – the Templars came into his range of vision. Being a medieval monarch was always an expensive business but Philip was determined to balance his books, even if that was done in a rather violent and unorthodox manner.

King Philip moves against his bank managers – the Templars!

Some have argued that like modern banks, most of the wealth deposited with the Templars had actually been loaned out by the Order and the idea they were sitting on great amounts of booty is a myth. The historian Dan Jones writes that there wasn’t something incredibly exceptional about King Philip’s debts though concedes that he was a thoroughly unpleasant character.

Anyway, King Philip decided – in effect – to kill his bank managers. Don’t cheer. Charges were trumped up against the Templars and a Pope who was under the ‘protection’ of the French monarchy was encouraged, in spite of misgivings, to go along with the whole saga.

As we know, the leaders of the Order were put to torture with one even claiming that he carried his charred toes around with him in a box thereafter. They confessed. They retracted their confessions. They were burnt at the stake.

King Philip went on to expel the Jews from France – as Edward I had done in England a few years earlier. But unlike Edward, he relented and asked them back again. One assumes that suppressing the Templars and the Jews removed two sources of credit from the medieval French economy, so not such a smart move.

He also picked on merchants from Lombardy thereby assuring that they preferred to transact business in London where there is still a ‘Lombard Street’. He may even have contributed to London’s eventual rise to be the world’s global financial centre (sorry New York).

In fact, when it came to having zero understanding of economics, King Philip le Bel really stands out as an A grade cretin. And not just because he slaughtered our beloved Templars. He also debased the coinage – that classic refuge of the spendthrift ruler….how many Roman emperors did the same to pay their armies?

The Templars then were undone not so much because of Satanic rituals and sodomitic initiations but because cash strapped King Philip kept licking his lips every time he passed the Paris Temple. It was too much money to ignore!


Suppression of the order

Next year the suppression of the order was decreed by the pope, and a large portion or their estates was made over to the order of the Knights Hospitallers.
At the time of its seizure in 1308 the preceptory of Newsam was one of the most wealthy in the county.

Prof Malcolm Barber, from the University of Reading, has written widely on the Templars, sifting truth from myth.
He says:

"Few historians today doubt that the charges were concocted and the confessions obtained by torture. But Templar innocence has been given no protection against modern sensationalism, for the raw material offered by the order's spectacular demise is too tempting to ignore. Among the first to exploit it were the 18th-century Freemasons.

"The Freemasons adopted the legend of the murder of Hiram, king of Tyre, who was employed to build Solomon's Temple and was murdered because he would not reveal Masonic secrets. According to the Freemasons' version of history, the Templars were abolished because, as occupants of Solomon's Temple, they held key knowledge that could potentially discredit both church and state.

"As myth has it, on that March evening in 1314, unique knowledge was supposedly handed down to the care of future generations, making the Templars and their mystery a particularly fertile resource for novelists and popular historians. Sir Walter Scott, whose eye for a gripping story made his books best sellers in their time, created the template for fiction and drama that many have since followed."

Talk of the lost treasure of the Templars still abounds in England, but stories of secret caches in caves across the land have largely been discredited.

As for the legend, the occasional glimpsed cross on the wall on in a place name are now all that, seemingly, remain of the once mighty order which for years held much of Europe in sway. But who knows?

Guest blogger Martin Hickes is a Leeds-based freelance journalist.


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